This interview has been lightly edited for grammar and conciseness.
In this interview, SimpleHash Co-Founder Olly Wilson interviews Alexander Guy, Head of Growth Marketing at Zerion. We break down what it takes to lead growth marketing in web3, appealing to specific customer segments, running on-chain analytics, and the similarities between trading cards and NFTs.
Olly Wilson: Hey Alex, good to see you today. Thank you very much for being with us. Very excited to chat about an interesting set of topics around web3 marketing and growth. To kick us off, it'd be great to hear a little bit about you, your background, and career highlights.
Alexander Guy: Sure, yeah. First of all, Olly, thanks a lot. I really appreciate the time today. Happy to talk to the SimpleHash community. In terms of me, I'm Alex, Head of Marketing and Growth at Zerion. I've been at Zerion for about two years, which in crypto means I've like aged like, I don't know, maybe like 15 years in that time. But Zerion is building the best wallet for web3 citizens. I think there's there's this belief in crypto that people are building right now for the next billion or maybe even the first billion users. And although that ambition is attractive, we really think that the wallet space could use a refresh specifically for the people who are already here who really believe in the space and use some aspects, some corner, some application of web3 really frequently, probably on a weekly and probably on a daily basis, or more than that. And so for me personally, my journey, I definitely don't think I can consider myself a crypto OG. I missed the beginnings of Ethereum and certainly Bitcoin. I also came slightly too late to really benefit from DeFi summer. But basically, I'm a reformed web2 marketer, web2 growth person who's worked in a variety of startups. I've worked in everything from a self-funded project that completely ran out of money all the way up to two different acquisitions. And so I've kind of spanned, I think, most of the experience in the startup world. To be quite honest, about three years ago, I guess around the time of the pandemic, I was feeling really jaded, just with the startup environment in general, the startup grind, and was really kind of thinking like, you know, okay, what should I do? Sort of evaluating my options, thinking about maybe a career change. And, lo and behold, found crypto and found Ethereum in a big way and the rest is history and I just sort of like fell down the proverbial rabbit hole and here I am. Olly Wilson: That's awesome, thanks for running us through that. You hit on something interesting, I think you said web3 citizen. It sounds like you're describing someone who's pretty active in web3 using wallets on a daily basis, that kind of thing. Maybe interact with a protocol. How would you actually define that?
Alexander Guy: So we conceive of this, like I said, I mentioned usage. Somebody who's accessing, interacting, trading, buying, collecting all of these sort of terms in terms of how we think about a web3 citizen. Typically there's somebody who has multiple asset types. They're not somebody who is just getting started. We really think that building for these people who really believe in, believe and use web3 as a concept are sort of underserved in terms of the wallet options out there, specifically on mobile. And so like these people who hold multiple asset types probably interact with it all in some profound way.
We think that building for people who really believe in and use web3 as a concept are underserved in terms of the wallet options out there, specifically on mobile.
Alexander Guy: And also, I'd say this is a little harder to define and quantify, but this is, somebody who like really believes there's an emotional thing going on here. And like maybe that is someone who just truly believes in decentralized finance and like what that means in terms of breaking us free from the traditional financial institutions, or maybe that's a creator who has been able to start their career by selling NFTs of their art or music. Maybe it's a collector, somebody who's found NFTs in the concept of digital ownership to be emotionally appealing. So like a web3 citizen for us, I think, in addition to nuts and bolts and nitty gritty, quantitative things, there's also this less tangible, more emotional concept that I think is important.
Olly Wilson: It's almost religion in some sense.
Alexander Guy: Yeah, yeah, there's definitely some parallel I think my family members have made this joke several times, and I'm just now in like a massive cult, or it's hopefully a growing cult. But a good example is, we know on Zerion that 70% of users, our users on Zerion Wallet, have assets across two chains, at least two chains. And we know that about a quarter, maybe a little more than that, 30%, have assets across at least four chains. They're a relatively sophisticated user because if you're interacting with that many different chains and that many different apps, DApps that are like part of these ecosystems, you're a pretty advanced user. And interestingly, we actually just talked about this in Denver at WalletCon, but around 50% of, this is a new change for us. We recently launched a browser within our mobile wallet. And very, very quickly, more than 50% of the transactions Zerion Wallet actually happened through the browser. So people are actually using the Wallet to go and access different points, different parts of web3, whether that's buying an NFT, claiming a music NFT, using a staking protocol, whatever. The point is that now we see a huge behavioral shift by the simple fact that people can do this easily with Zerion Wallet. So it's like, these are the type of people that we're targeting and talking to. So that's a little bit more of the quantifiable piece know that somebody is very engaged in these communities, how to hold these NFTs, you know, participates in these ecosystems.
Olly Wilson: Makes sense. Yeah, you mentioned quite a few metrics and actually I want to come back to it just how you're tracking everything as well. But before we dive into that, also wanted to hear about how you probably had a lot of opportunities, and what was it about Zerion in particular that led you to join them?
Alexander Guy: Well, NFTs really shifted my perception of the space and got me really excited by it. But effectively, I was starting to build out a small portfolio. I found a friend of mine, a really good friend of mine, works at Ledger. And so we started just like, I guess he became my crypto daddy. I think this is a term. Like somebody who just like onboards you continues to feed you once you've got a little taste of web3. And so basically, we just started talking a lot. And so I started doing what most people do, I think, when they start to learn about this is try things out. And Zerion at the time was one of the more well-known portfolio trackers, specifically focused on DeFi. Alexander Guy: And a huge problem that I still think is the case for a lot of crypto and web3 is the user experience is, like, very clunky, disjointed, oftentimes incoherent or hard to understand what's going on. As a space, we still don't even have a shared terminology for a lot of key things. The example I always give is a seed phrase, which is called simultaneously a seed phrase, recovery phrase, a secret pass phrase, a secret recovery phrase. And to a new person in space this is overwhelming. And so I found Zerion because I was looking for a way to manage this moderate investment portfolio across all these different protocols and increasingly across several chains and Zerion was just a great tool and so effectively what I ended up doing once I started using the products and getting really excited about it I joined a Discord server started interacting with the team and at some point I saw they were looking for a head of marketing and I basically just like badgered the CEO.
As a space, we still don't even have a shared terminology for a lot of key things
Alexander Guy: So, yeah, it was like a persistence and like just like, I don't know, bugging somebody on Discord, I think is probably what did it.
Olly Wilson: I think a lot of people in web3 had similar journeys. That's fantastic. I mean, you've done a bunch of roles, growth marketing type roles, previously. Do you think there are major differences in terms of overseeing marketing growth in non-crypto to crypto, or it's actually still the same sort of paradigms?
Alexander Guy: I think that sometimes, well, yes and no, which is a great cop-out answer, sorry for that. But I think that sometimes there's this very crypto-specific tendency to basically be like, nothing from the previous world works in this space. And I think that's probably overblown. However, there are fundamental things about the way that crypto works and the philosophy behind web3 that I personally believe in.
Olly Wilson: Mm-hmm.
Alexander Guy: Fundamentally, we mentioned tracking earlier, privacy protection in terms of tracking means that you obviously have less data about your users. Now there's a number of different marketing platforms that are trying to solve this issue right now, but what I see a lot from these tools is that they're basically like, yes, we like combined web2 and web3 data. So we combine on chain and off chain, which inherently is semi problematic because you start to confront like, okay, well, like, how do you preserve users' privacy? How do you preserve someone's privacy? If you can cross associate wallet addresses, if you can connect an email address to, to a wallet address, these are things that the industry typically has frowned upon. And I think is right because it's both a drawback for a marketer potentially in terms of it makes our lives harder. But it's also something that I believe in. We believe in it as a way of trying to make sure we preserve users' privacy. So data and tracking is a fundamental difference that I think everyone working in web3 growth is confronted with at some point. You basically have a black box of things you're trying to do, about how you can go about hitting targets and things like that, but it's very hard to build a growth machine in Web3 right now, currently. Maybe we'll solve that soon. Another area is that a lot of quote unquote traditional, especially paid channels are like either closed, restricted, or just hard for crypto companies to access.
Alexander Guy: I mean it's a challenge in terms of just growth at all costs type of strategies. If you're only going after numbers, if you're really just trying to drive and hit targets, then the fact that you don't have this really easy paid, these paid channels that you can just turn on and tweak different copy, different images and things like that, which is unfortunately in web2, when you hear growth marketing, a lot of job descriptions are basically like, yes, we need somebody who's really good at A-B testing Facebook ads. But it (web3) certainly changes things, in terms of the strategy, how you want to budget, what things you might want to prioritize, and what kind of things you can't. For example, Zerion has been facing an issue with Twitter for like three years, where we because they flagged us as like a crypto company, we cannot run Twitter ad.
Alexander Guy: And I find this really funny because like, there's been like fake Arbitrum airdrop ads that I've been getting hit with all week since the airdrop announcement, you know, obviously Coinbase and crypto.com and companies like that don't have any issues with advertising despite their centralized institutions, which as we've seen in last year have been slightly problematic. But I think that this inconsistency and these blockers in the way that growth people and growth teams have to think about how they deploy spend. And then I think probably more broadly is, I mean, I know other industries have cycles to them. There's seasonality that some industries face. There's obviously anybody who works in finance, deals with the cyclical nature of the stuff and how panics can ensue. But I've never seen anything change so fast on things that seem relatively benign or not all that serious. And then there's other things that are super serious and don't impact the market at all. And from a predictability perspective, I think as a growth person, it's sort of a little challenging to figure out how you ride the wave. But then I think, I don't know, maybe we're just in the same boat as everybody in the space. So it is different because the industry just moves and changes. and dips and jumps so quickly. But maybe that's just how everybody is in crypto. This is why I mentioned earlier that crypto ages you like 15 years in two years.
Olly Wilson: Yes, dog years.
Olly Wilson: How do you still manage to remain, I suppose, data-driven, pragmatic about marketing and growth?
Alexander Guy: So we, first of all, we've always really been true to thinking about on-chain metrics. So we try to think in aggregate and focus on business-like metrics that are important to our overall success that don't require us to like look at a specific person or target someone with a specific message or create a tailored specific message where like the personalization ID is their email address or their first name that you see in a lot of marketing automation in web2, like the way that this stuff works. So we've really tried to focus on on-chain data and on-chain actions, and then use those to drive different campaigns, different initiatives. And increasingly, we actually just talked about it in, we participated with Mirror, the blogging platform in a new feature launch. And basically what we talked about was this idea of on-chain marketing, which is something that I think, although a lot of teams are doing, we are concertedly thinking about, which is, how can we basically double down on any marketing tactic that has an on-chain component, whether that's offering up claims via POAPs or free NFTs, whether that's creating gated content experiences based on who owns specific NFTs, you know, whether that's like trying to create, you know real life experiences where the people who are able to come to this or can come to that, have engaged with us in a digital way.
We've really tried to focus on on-chain data and on-chain actions, and then use those to drive different campaigns, different initiatives
I mean, a really good example, I'm wearing this hoodie that we made for (ETH) Denver, where in the sleeve here, there's an NFC chip that basically a user can claim an NFT. And this NFT gives the user early access to our browser extension, which is gonna be, well, it's currently in private beta, but it'll be released in the next few months to anybody, to the general public. And so like for us, the idea of connecting like, you know, was an experiment to be fair the first time we tried it, but connecting like, meeting somebody in real life, giving them something that sort of commemorates that, that the fact that we met. And then having product utility or like something exclusive was like a really important flow for us to try to visualize and try out. And it was pretty successful. We were really targeted (on) who we wanted to give these to. And so we had like a list and we like, you know, made sure we pinged everybody on telegram to meet up with them in Denver. But the general idea was like, we create this flow or mini funnel between meeting somebody, having to claim the NFT, and then giving them access to something in our product that is unique or early or exclusive. These are the tactics that we try to focus on. The on-chain piece, this on-chain marketing thing is just becoming the way that we think about and conceive our marketing strategy. For me, my big... I don't know about... I guess we could could measure it over time, but like I want to know how many wallets can we get the Zerion brand into.
Alexander Guy: So like I don't need to know whose wallet or you know if it's the same person who has a hundred wallets I don't need to know any of that. But in my opinion, it's like a net positive for us if we can just get the Zerion brand in some way into as many wallets as possible and then we figure out like okay, so there's this many people who've claimed this NFT you know, how do we get them to claim the next NFT? How do we get them to meet us? in real life, it's some kind of unique thing that only holders can go to. And then ultimately we bring them to the product. And so we've just decided that on-chain tactics and on-chain campaigns and opportunities are going to be the way we go about acquiring users and just spreading the brand. I mean, a good example is, as I said, we were part of this Mirror campaign. So basically we made this NFT, like an OG subscriber NFT. These were like our first Mirror subscribers. And something like 90,000 mints happened in about a week. And so 90,000 people minted it. And beyond that, we went from having about 3,000 subscribers on Mirror to having literally 300,000 subscribers on Mirror in like a matter of days. And so now we have this like big group of people where we're like, okay, these are subscribers.
So they're like general fans of something we're doing. So we can produce content that all of them can download or claim, because Mirror has the collect function, but we can also do things where it's like, oh, this is only available to the people who've got the subscriber NFT, or you can claim this first, and then maybe there's some collectability there on top of that, you see what I mean? So this is kind of the strategy that we're operating on. It's focusing on tactics that have an on chain component. It's like the way that we're gonna be able able to both measure it like an aggregate and also just like influence the this this goal of getting Zerion's brand into as many wallets as we can. So we're looking we're already looking at ways from the product perspective to do things where it's like if we're doing a lot of Mirror posts where people are collecting you know these posts well like wouldn't it be cool to make it easy to like read these posts after you've collected them you know so you can collect it and then read it on your phone later like all these things like where it like there's some product utility meshed with like, you know, the marketing element / component as well.
Olly Wilson: I love this. Obviously going very deep into on-chain activity, we talked a lot about the kinds of things you're looking for, making sure you're building the right experience and interactions. But I'm curious - that's all very data and metrics driven. I think when we last spoke, you also said that you'd seen a lot of similarities and crossovers in the space between behavior that people have around trading cards, sports collectibles, that kind of thing, and almost an irrational behavior. I'd be curious to have you expand on that.
Alexander Guy: So I guess like the thing that brought me into this space, maybe it's like a guilty pleasure or maybe it's not, I don't know. But like the thing that actually brought me into the space that sort of like had all this, this click for me was a fantasy football soccer for the card game called Sorare. And the principle is pretty much if anybody's played online fantasy sports, it's the same kind of concept, except that the players, that you sort of assemble in your teams, you actually go and buy their cards. And these cards have different rarity levels, so there's different competitions based on how rare the card is. I mean, I think I've been playing it for a few years now, obviously, but I think that there was a Christiano Ronaldo card that like in the peak of the bull market sold for like something crazy like 500,000 euros, because it's the unique one from that season. There's only one for that season. And so like, as somebody who grew up as a sports card collector, like it was just this light bulb moment for me where I'm a fan of a team, I can build out with like, I'm a fan of players, I can like collect all these different players cards. I have several players where I have like the, like I have the common version, I have the limited version, which is a thousand, I have the rare version. I'm not crypto rich enough to get into the super rare and uniques yet, but we'll see.
Olly Wilson: Next bull run.
Alexander Guy: Yeah, exactly, next bull run. But so like this game, you know, for me, was a super powerful onboarding experience into a lot of the like philosophies and like emotional concepts I mentioned earlier that like would sort of keep people here. And it was just like this gateway, you know, gateway drug for me in the space that allowed me to like go and learn a lot of concepts. And the powerful thing was every card when you buy it, there's an etherscan link. So you can click on it and go to etherscan and like see your card on-chain and like really you can see that it's me even you know that I own this card and so like as somebody who is collecting you know and a sports fan this just you know light bulb kind of moment for me that that made a lot of other things make sense in crypto. Not that I was ever really skeptical I don't I don't think I was even ever invested enough like to be skeptical it was more like it was just like a thing happening over there that I hadn't really considered. So this was a light bulb moment for me. And I think as a brand, as a company operating in this space, there's a lot of similarities between, I don't know, you find these people who are like diehard Nike fans. They just love Nike stuff. And so they're going to buy everything Nike, and they're going to be buying shoes, and they're going to get the sweatsuit. And then when Nike sponsors a sports team, they're going to make sure they get that, that team's all the gear from that thing, because they're like Nike fans. And I think you see that across a number of industries where the power of the brand creates these superfans. But there's a small number of superfans.
Olly Wilson: Yeah.
Alexander Guy: Then there's other people. Like I've got Nike shoes next to me. I don't think I'm a Nike superfan, but yeah, I like Nike. And so I buy the shoes and I maybe, I don't know, maybe I have a jersey that's like a Nike jersey or something like that. And so this to me starts to create a similar concept that again, I think you see in sports and crypto and web3 brands can take advantage of this, which is like there's different levels of fandom. So obviously you want to cater to your superfans. You want to build as many superfans as possible. So for me, the on-chain marketing concept certainly caters to them because it gives them so many different ways to interact with us.
You know, we have a weekly Discord call. I think it's actually bi-weekly now. With our community, we give away a POAP every time. So like people can go claim the POAP and then like there's people who literally, we can see them on-chain. Like they have like every POAP like from every community call. You know, these are like the die hards. You know, then we see people who like stop in every once in a while. Maybe they missed a week maybe they didn't find the topic interesting that week whatever but that they still are able to connect with us and interact with us I think it's actually quite similar to clothing brand like Nike or or being a fan of sports team where maybe you're a seasoned ticket holder or maybe you just like got the tickets for Christmas, you know. Or you know for your birthday or something like that.
And so the on-chain element for me sort of quantifies that activity in a way that that traditional marketing doesn't, it's a lot harder to develop these kind of deep relationships with people. And I think that the concept of the fact that you're doing, you're using your wallet to interact not only with Zerion but in the Zerion ecosystem. But the entire web3 ecosystem creates a really unique place for us in that space. We love the idea that we're sort of positioned inside this whole crazy, quickly evolving space. And so for us, we want to create as many opportunities like I say for people to become superfans, to engage with us, to use our products, certainly. But we also want to make sure that people can just sort of check in and be a part of it at like kind of the level that they want to be. And maybe someday in the future, they change their mind. I mean, a good example I think is, you know, we did this thing on Mirror. We were basically trying to raise money for the earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria. And I'm sure there are a lot of people who collected this who maybe know Zerion, maybe they don't, maybe they use us, maybe they don't, but they saw this and thought this is something I want to contribute to. And so when they collected it, they got the Optimism NFT in their wallet, they can see it, it's Zerion branded. And then we donated 10 ETH, I sent the transaction last week, we raised and donated 10 ETH. This says a lot about who we are as a company, the things we believe in, how we want to utilize this technology, what our philosophy is in terms of money and interacting with our community.
...the on-chain element quantifies activity in a way that that traditional marketing doesn't...
Somebody could have been a superfan, been like, absolutely, I love Zerion, here they are again doing something really great for the world and trying to make the world better place. That's great - comes to us, stumbles onto us, sees it on Twitter, somebody re-shares it in a telegram channel, whatever it is they came to us, interacted with our brand. And then, you know, six months, one month, a year, who knows when, they're gonna look at their wallet at some point and like remember the fact that Zerion did that, that they were a part of this, that they contributed to it, that they were a part of this, you know, sort of fund that we, you know, contributed to, to the victims of this tragedy. Like, I think that serves us in the long run, even if the immediate result is for a brand, isn't super quantifiable or huge. It's just a net positive for us in the long run. This was a time where we got to do something that really mattered. I think that, in terms of if you're communicating the things you stand for, this very much hit a lot of our, it hit the why, I guess, of Zerion.
Olly Wilson: That's awesome. Olly Wilson: So we could talk for a lot longer, but last question - what advice would you give to someone who's new to web3 and doing a growth or marketing role?
Alexander Guy: So the first thing is I think being a user of anything in crypto is that the best way to get excited by this is by trying stuff out, by making a mistake, by sending money to the wrong address. The whole experience of crypto is like a learn by doing place. It's a stressful thing, I have to say. The push notification of a completed transaction in Zerion, definitely my favorite thing about it because I'm just like, whoo, anxiety gone. But I think be a user, but you don't have to be a user of everything. This is like a new internet or a new version of the internet or however you wanna think about it. So it's almost infinite things you could try. But like I would say follow your interests, follow things that make sense to you and like get into that community. Like really try to sort of learn it from a deep perspective like inside and out. That's what happened with me with Sorare, with me on a number of projects. My latest obsession is music NFTs. And so I'm trying to like talk to artists, you know, claim music drops on Zerion, do all these things like to get really invested in the space. And, you know, that's because I like, I like music and it's not because of any, you know, sort of selfish or opportunistic, like flipping opportunity. It's like this just, I just like music and I think it's cool to support artists. So get, get into, get into something that makes sense to you and really try to be a user. I think is we get a lot of inspiration from our community.
...the whole experience of crypto is a learn by doing place... get into something that makes sense to you and really try to be a user
Alexander Guy: What I'm saying is you should really talk to your users. You should ask them questions. You should poll them - does this make sense or does this make sense? Do you like this term or this term? Like as a marketer I get so much inspiration by like asking my community how they would describe something or how they're going to experience something. And a good example recently is we were trying to decide: we've got self-custodial human as one sort of way to describe our audience. And then we have web3 Citizens. So we just polled on Twitter and we polled on Discord and we sort of compiled the results to like see which one would be the more, I guess, like exciting or easily identifiable word - it turned out web3 Citizens were. And so, you know, we learned this and then we can apply that to like how we go and communicate about ourselves later down the line. And so like when I say use community- talk to them with the specific intent of like learning from them, not, you know, I don't know, some sort of more, more superficial, you know, empty platitudes, like we can literally learn from these people because they're using your product or whatever, and they're excited by what you're doing. And so like, that's a huge resource, as you're trying to figure out, I mean, we're inventing language about how to describe things in crypto all the time. And like these people from a language perspective, from a usability perspective, like they have a lot of resources and information to convey to you. So that's the thing. That's what I'd say.
As a marketer I get so much inspiration by asking my community how they would describe something or how they're going to experience something
Olly Wilson: Great advice. Well, Alex, thank you so much for chatting today - it's been fascinating.
Alexander Guy: Awesome. Thanks, Olly. I appreciate it.
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